According to NBC, at least one patient and at least a dozen staff members have been diagnosed with scabies infections. In addition, medical teams are following precautions to prevent the disease from spreading to others. However, the 120-bed residential medical center is continuing its operations as usual.
A spokesperson for the veterans hospital did not confirm whether the 12 employees and patient contracted scabies, but instead stated that they were "impacted" by it.
According to a report by DisabledVeterans.org, the Washington DC VA Medical Center has multiple sanitary issues, including failing to use "proper protocol to remove recalled supplies and equipment" as well as "failing to ensure supplies are sterile."
According to the US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), scabies is caused by an infestation of the skin by a mite (Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis). The scabies mite burrows its way into the upper layer of skin, where it lays its eggs. Scabies symptoms include "intense itching" and a "pimple-like skin rash." The rash is usually found on the wrist, elbow, armpits, penis, nipples, waist and buttocks, as well as in between the fingers.
The disease is usually spread by "direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact" with an infected person or exposure to infected bedding, clothing or even furniture, according to the CDC.
Scabies can also lead to potentially dangerous complications. "The intense itching of scabies leads to scratching that can lead to skin sores. The sores sometimes become infected with bacteria on the skin, such as Staphylococcus aureus or beta-hemolytic streptococci. Sometimes the bacterial skin infection can lead an inflammation of the kidneys called post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis," the CDC warns on its website.
The infection is treated with scabicide lotion or cream, which can kill scabies mites and eggs.